The Committee to Protect Journalists says more journalists were killed last year than in any of the previous 13 years. The media watchdog's annual report also says China is falling short on its promise of press freedom ahead of the Olympic Games. VOA's Heda Bayron reports from Hong Kong.

In its yearly report released Monday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says 65 journalists were killed in the line of duty last year - half of them working in Iraq.

Iraq continues to be the deadliest place in the world for reporters.

The CPJ's report also points to China as the world's top jailer of journalists. 

As Beijing prepares to host the Olympic Games in August, the CPJ says China is falling short on the promise it made to the International Olympic Committee in 2001 - to allow unrestricted media coverage before and during the games.

"Many groups see the run up to the Olympics as a window of opportunity to try to encourage China to change or even to force change in China," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator.  "But we see that closing very quickly now. We see a hardening line within the government toward any sort of significant change in the media."

In October, during the Communist Party Congress, China cracked down on websites and bloggers reporting on local government abuses. And although China says foreign journalists are free to interview and cover any "related matters", reporters trying to cover protests have been barred from doing so, sometimes detained and even beaten.

Dietz criticizes the International Olympic Committee for turning what he calls "curiously deaf ears" to journalists' demands for media freedom and rights in China.

"To us, it is more discouraging that the IOC has not brought more pressure to China to fulfill those obligations," he said.

Somalia was the most dangerous place for journalists in Africa last year and the second deadliest after Iraq, with seven deaths.

The CPJ is also raising concern about media freedom in Russia, where the government has expanded the definition of "extremism", making it a crime for media to criticize public officials.

The CPJ says government officials, political groups, paramilitaries and criminal gangs are largely behind attacks on reporters worldwide. It says 85 percent of journalist murders in the past 15 years went unpunished.

The report, however, notes some positive developments. It says there were no work-related deaths last year in the Philippines and Colombia - two countries that had seen a rise in attacks against journalists in recent years.